Interconnected seas form our parent ocean — to my mind, the most critically endangered species on the planet. We are undeniably linked: biologically (from whence we came), for sustenance (food, water, air), and emotionally (see “Blue Mind”-Wallace J. Nichols). We all know our parent is in trouble. What we do on land, and in the air and water can help or hurt. I’m always looking for ideas.
over-fishing ~ MarineBio.org-“…a solvable problem.” World Wildlife Fund“More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits.”
ocean pollution~ National Geographic and NOAA (“Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land.” I include plastics as a form of “run-off.”)
the atmosphere ~If you click on only one thing in this post, choose this one. iMatter: Young people are taking governments to court in a fight to protect the atmosphere. These powerful, passionate, and eloquent kids are using society’s highest tools to force the top game-changers to uphold and act under the law. Their stories and presence touch, educate, and empower. Expect goosebumps, smiles, maybe a touch of “parental” pride.
After rain Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park Photo: Katy Pye All rights reserved
We’re in this together. Feel free to share your favorite “primal parent” links, suggestions, and stories in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, peace, and do what you can.
Nesting Kemp’s ridley Photo: Adrienne McCracken
P.S. It’s sea turtle nesting season in many places and all 7 species are threatened or endangered. To avoid extinction, they need to up their reproduction rates. Please report any turtles or nests you find to appropriate local groups. Seaturtle.org lists 228+/- sea turtle groups in 63 countries. Follow local requirements or best practices, such as turning off outside lights at night. Don’t interfere with, or distract adults or hatchlings. Know how your fish and seafood is caught and whether laws to protect sea turtles from drowning in shrimping nets are being followed. Louisiana defiantly refuses to enforce federal fishing laws that protect sea turtles during shrimp trawling.
This year’s theme: “Youth: The Next Wave for Change”
Young people around the world are tuning in every day to the planet’s stunning and imperiled ocean ecosystems and how we connect to them all. Celebrating World Ocean’s Day, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) members are celebrating with programs and events (find one near you).
My contribution to the DAYis sharing information about a critical ocean problem — plastics pollution. Maybe something here will spark you to spread info and ideas, change what you do, or where you devote time. There’s a lot here, but you can come back anytime, read more, follow the links.
I’m lucky to live next to the Pacific Ocean. Today, as part of my volunteer job, I fed bull kelp to abalone and sea urchins in the intertidal display tank we have at ourlocal light house.
Point Cabrillo Lightstation — State Historic Park Mendocino, CA Photo: Katy Pye
Intertidal display tank Pt. Cabrillo Lightstation Photo: Katy Pye
But you don’t have to live near the ocean to have the ocean in your life. You don’t even have to live near an aquarium. Go online — look at photos, listen to wave sounds, or watch a video, like this one, where marine biologist, Wallace “J” Nichols, Phd, talks about “Blue Mind –how your brain gets when you’re at the ocean. Then, get off the computer and go outside. Why? Because studies show our brains on ANY nature change for the better. So cool! We knew that, right?
Now that you’re relaxed and mellow from the lovely pictures, let’s dive into the problem.
PLASTICS AND THE OCEAN GYRES
Plastics — all kinds, sizes, shapes, and chemical composition end up as garbage. We know that much. At the Turtle Island Restoration Network “BlueMind” symposium last month I was reminded all oceans are “downstream.” Everything we do to our land, our waterways, even our air, ends up in an ocean — likely more than one, depending on the currents.
The 5 ocean gyres. NOAA map
A lot of plastic and other human junk has stalled into a floating “island” called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the North Pacific gyre (or current). The mess twice the size of Texas. More garbage and tiny, broken down plastic bits are showing up in the other gyres, too, swirling in the equivalent of a plastic alphabet soup. Watch Wallace J. Nichol’s TEDx video on the garbage patchand rethinking our oceans and lives in exciting ways.
Plastics Soup Photo:Charles Moore
“The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.”
—Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The scale and cost of cleanup is beyond doable. But there is a way to slow things down. Reduce the waste stream. Hello–that means us. Polar bears don’t drink bottled water or use styrofoam plates and plastic forks at their picnics.
A Few Factoids:
For an extensive look (with astounding photos) of the plastic waste problem worldwide, go toCoastal Care.org. Definitely worth it, but a caution, it may change your life.
The average American generates 600 lbs. of garbage/year. Half is synthetic and ends up in landfills or “recycled.”
Examples elsewhere — an estimated 150,000 tons of marine plastic detritus washed up on Japanese beaches in 2009. Same year. India. 300 tons in one day. Think of Hawaii as unspoiled? Not all of it.
Hawaii shores Photo: EPA
Yamuna River, New Delhi-see the children? Photo: Manan Vastsyayana
Plastic bagsmake up25% of urban waste that ends in our creeks. Which run downhill — i.e. into an ocean.
Plastic bags in the ocean and on corral Photos: US EPA
Plastic bottle capslikelydon’t go in the curbside bin; they need special recycling. Avena stores and Whole Foods will take them, or go hereto find a drop-off place near you.
About 8% of the plastics we use are “recovered.” 50% to landfills, the rest is re-manufactured or “disappears.” In 2009, the EPA estimated only 31% of all water bottles hit the recycle bin. Is buying bottled water a little nuts, considering the U.S. has the cleanest water on the planet? Cities spend bazillions of dollars every year ensuring our drinking water (you remember, the stuff out of the tap) is safe to drink. Don’t like the taste, get an inexpensive faucet or counter-top filter. Okay, I’m preaching, but really!
“Downcycling”plastics is recycling them into other things like toys, tables, park benches, pillow and coat insulation fibers, etc. Good news is about 1,800 American businesses handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics collected at your curb. Bad news? These re-manufactured products can’t be recycled when worn out. They go in a landfill.
A Berkeley, CAEcology Center reportsays it costs more in labor and energy to recycle than it does to reduce production and use in the first place. From what I’ve read, it’s a lot cleaner for the environment, too.
Plastics take hundreds of years, or more, to break down in a landfill.
The Marine Conservancy estimates decomposition rates of most plastic debris found on coasts stack up like this:
Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
Disposable diapers: 450 years
Plastic bottle: 450 years
Fishing line: 600 years
Let’s back up to the point about plastics production and source reduction
All plastics increase our dependency on fossil fuels (especially natural gas) and create seriously toxic pollution to air, land, and water during manufacturing.Read Diane Wilson’s bookfor an inside view of what plastic production can do to people and the environment at the source. It’s a powerful story about social injustice and a load of motivation to change our ways.
Toxics escape from plastics in landfills, bottles tossed along roadsides, even the teeny, tiny chunks floating in bays and oceans. Plastics pollutants are believed to cause hard-to-diagnose, and easy to dismiss, health problems in living organisms. Including people. Especially the young.
Marine mammals and fish die horribly from entanglement or eating plastic that looks like food.
“If I find one more stinkin’ plastic bag in my ocean…” my favorite shopping bag by Eco Maniac Co.
I’ve trained myself to the cloth-shopping-bags-in-the-car thing, I’ve bought reusable veggie/fruit bags or reuse plastic ones — some still stick to my fingers no matter how hard I try to avoid them. Now I’m paying attention to what I pick up when I shop. What’s it made of? How is it packaged? Is there an alternative with less or no outside wrap (bulk bin)? Most of all, do I really need it? That’s a tough one, sometimes. I do more charity “gifts” on birthdays and holidays — no more gift wrap to throw away and MOST of my family and friends still love me! Giving a few bucks to plant trees in urban neighborhoods is good for neighbors, cleans the air, AND helps oceans!
And how cool is this? There’s an Android “Marine Debris Tracker” appfor people in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina who want to help track marine debris washing up on their beaches. The project is a joint venture between NOAA and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI) out of the University of Georgia Faculty of Engineering. I want one for California! Update: use the app anywhere in the world.
Also,NOAA’s Marine Debris Programhas a 1 page download explaining garbage patches. Think about what you can do to reduce the load–seriously. Print it out and pass it along.
My daughter is a big fan of singer Jack Johnson. Now I’m impressed. He made sure his 2010-11 “To the Sea” concert reduced its environmental footprint. His article about it is on Ocean Conservancy’s web page, or go toAll At Once for the figures.
Here’s wishing you a fabulous, Blue Mind, World Oceans Day! Post a comment on how you’re planning to celebrate our magnificent gift from our big, blue marble — and your gift back at it. Peace.